Hungarian Super Bowl

Now that the Super Bowl of American football is over, feast your eyes on some amazing feats of coordination and teamwork in Hungary.  I believe the narration is in Hungarian, but the video is multi-lingual.  Huge bowls like this seem to have been used in many cultures across the world, for animal processing and other tasks.

A friend drew my attention to the film last week, and I notice something new each time I watch it.  Some brief observations:

  • The immensity and weight of the bowl itself keeps it in place with little need for work-holding considerations.  It also makes it practical to cut the two cross-grain trenches followed by the splitting out of the wood in between.
  • The skill and accuracy of the axe work is notable, along with the ease and fluidity of the practiced motions.  Check out the slow-motion shot of the axe rotation between strokes about six and a half minutes in.
  • Their practiced hands and eyes, accustomed to this particular form, achieve the shape with very few guidelines it seems; just a few checks here and there with an axe handle.
  • That wide adze with the sharply drooped head and short handle can rotate around across the grain in the wide hollow.  Lovely to watch the work with the adze on the exterior ends and handles as well.  Kept sharp with quick skillful strokes of a simple slipstone.
  • I wonder if the carved wooden breast bib is intended to protect their clothes from the drawknife at least as much as their flesh.  The one drawknife is missing a wooden handle.  Maybe he prefers it that way; regardless, it doesn’t hold him back.
  • The justified pride shown by the man lifting the complete bowl to the wall next to the others is timeless.  I love how he taps on the surfaces, I presume to demonstrate the evenness of tone or the simple fact that the wood has been carved thin enough to resonate to some degree.  I felt a connection to him, as I often find myself tapping finished bowls to hear the tone.
  • Family/community members of all ages are around during the work, and join in, especially during the spoon carving session during the last part of the film.  My best guess, based on the credits at the end, is that this was filmed in 1962.

And that’s just scratching the surface…

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27 Responses to Hungarian Super Bowl

  1. John says:

    Excellent! I wonder if the wooden breast bib is to protect the chest against the hard prow of the curved tub much like a floor mechanic’s knee pads since there’s almost no padding in the area of the sternum and this kind of job would work that part of the body pretty hard.


  2. William Auld says:

    A lot of lessons about many things … Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jed Dillard says:

    Any good guess on what the wood might be?


  4. pathdoc75 says:

    Looks like a timberframe large mortising axe to chop out the two channels then split out the waste between them. The timing of the alternate blows of the wedges was so synchronized. Hard, but skilled work.


  5. Gene Felder says:

    Thanks for posting the video. Just fascinating. I wonder if the breast plate he was using was to cushion his chest while he leaning against the edge of the log. Also, I was surprised they didn’t use a long handle adze instead of the ax to hollow out the log? Different culture I guess. I’m just finishing up a black cherry bowl that was hard to handle at around 30″ long…wet it must have weighed about 25 pounds. Next time I’ll try to work it on the floor instead up lifting it up to my carving horse and chopping block! I also felt a connection to the process, tools and the overall satisfaction of going from log to bowl. Hope you’re well.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Gene, given the length of that piece, it would save time to split out lots of wood between channels. With more modestly sized bowls, it wouldn’t be worth the effort to chop the channels with such a short length of fibers in between.

      Yeah, a 30″ bowl is surely big enough to justify wrestling around with on the floor! Next time. Glad to hear you’ve been carving away. All is well here, thanks. Hope to cross paths soon.


  6. Txus says:

    I think they’re bowls destined for the slaughter of the pig


  7. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing this.

    For highly skilled and efficient people, I would have thought they’d take 5 minutes and put a new handle on that drawknife.


  8. Eric Goodson says:

    Thanks for sharing Dave. I have not seen this particular video before. Such practiced skill, and I love his proud yet humble smile at the end. My stepmother is Serbian and we have visited her hometown several times. These types of bowls are common on farms in the area, used for processing pigs. I’m not sure how much they are used these days. They seem to be displayed more as proud relics of the past. These days, when pigs need to be slaughtered and processed, they call a professional. I remember walking down the street and seeing a horse drawn cart go by with a massive bandsaw mounted on the cart. My first thought was, “look, a portable sawmill.” No, my stepmother explained, he was a local butcher.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Another process taken behind closed doors now. Few people want to know how the sausage is made I guess. Although a butcher with a traveling bandsaw should still draw a crowd! Thanks for relating that Eric.


  9. Bob Easton says:

    Fabulous! Thanks for posting it. The pride of craftsmanship is obvious.

    Reminds me that I need to re-handle my adze; the current handle is too long.


  10. Dave Fisher says:

    Pretty common issue Bob. Has to be in harmony with the particular head. Good luck with it.


  11. Richard McCarty says:

    Thanks SO much for sharing this… BIG bowls clearly require BIG trees, BIG tools, BIG hands, BIG hearts & BIG muscles…. Love the heritage of this craft that is so new to me… My first bowl that is currently a “black cherry work in progress” is a mere MINI BOWL (small tree downed on my property)…. As always… Once again inspired by what you share Dave…. THANK YOU….,


  12. Thomas Abbuhl says:

    This more contemporary video (based on the quality of the video) shows both a similar large and a smaller bowl being used as dough bowls for potato bread. There’s also a shot showing a spoon similar to the ones being carved in the 1962 video…


    • Dave Fisher says:

      That’s fantastic! Thanks for sharing that link. Definitely a contemporary video, and in Hungary as well, I think. She used every bit of the volume of that giant bowl. I hope Paula Marcoux gets a chance to watch that. She’ll notice things about the process that surely went over my head.


  13. Paula Marcoux says:

    Thanks for the tip, Dave, and thank you, Thomas, for sharing the video. Wonderful to see those gorgeous troughs put to their proper use.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Scott Kinsey says:

    The fellow driving the wedges into the end grain (1:40-2:05)…. brought the great Sam Snead to mind. Poetry of motion. Then there’s the axe wielding southpaw… he moved like Fred Astaire!
    What a delicious video.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. martin bako says:

    Hi David, When I used to be a child I remember everyone called them trough man, meaning; it coming from word trough – river trough and that super bowl it was called trough. Usually these troughs has been made by gypsies travelers. People used these troughs mainly for pig slaughter and in kitchen like mixing bowls. It was very heavy bowl and I think the wood which they used to make them called linden tree .

    and the axe we called trough axe but is type of adze you can find in below link
    video i find



    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thank you, Martin, for all of that information. Wonderful! The adzes (trough axes) at the link you provided look exactly like the ones in the videos. Great to see that they’re still being produced. The modern video you found shows many of the same processes being used, and it even looks like he might be carving linden as you suggested these were traditionally carved from. Linden species are known as lime in the British Isles, and basswood in N. America. “Trough man” — love it!


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